Monday, May 30, 2011

R.I.P. Minnie Gallegos

Photo by Barbara Wold
Minnie Gallegos, the first woman elected to head the Santa Fe County Democratic Party, died Sunday. She was in her 80s.

Gallegos was chairwoman of the county party between late 2001 and early 2009.In the 1980s, she was director of Santa Fe County Housing.

Robert Adams, who worked with Gallegos in the party, wrote on his Facebook page that Gallegos died surrounded by family.

Richard Ellenberg, who succeeded Gallegos as party chairman, wrote in an email, "We will all miss her. She was a dedicated and hardworking activist and former County Chair for most of a decade.

"I will remember her as the generous and warm person who welcomed me into the Party and mentoring me."

Details on funeral arramngements are pending, Ellenberg said.

My fondest memory of Minnie was during a Bill Richardson campaign bus trip through northern New Mexico  in October 2002 that I was covering. I learned that she had a sharp sense of humor and was quick to laugh.

She always was good-natured and helpful every time I had to call her during her time as chairwoman. It's down-to-Earth people like Minnie who make politics fun. I'll miss her.

UPDATE: 5-31-11 I wrote a full obit for Minnie for Wednesday's paper. You can find it HERE

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Former Bush Spokesman Endorses Wilson

Ari Fleischer, former press secretary for President George W. Bush, has endorsed Heather Wilson for U.S. Senate and will travel to Albuquerque For a Wilson fundraiser.

“Heather Wilson’s strong conservative record and background in national defense make her the most qualified person to serve New Mexico in the U.S. Senate,” Fleischer said in a release emailed by the WIlson campaign. “I know that from day one in the Senate, Heather will lead the charge to get our financial house in order and to repeal and replace Obamacare. I'm proud to endorse her candidacy today.”

Between 1989 and 1994, Fleischer was spokesman for Sen. Pete Domenici.

He will be in Albuquerque on June 14.

Roundhouse Roundup: When Running Mates Quit Running Together

A version of this was published in The Santa Fe New Mexican
May 26, 2011

Martinez & Sanchez on Election Night 2010

Unlike Bill Richardson with Diane Denish, Gov. Susana Martinez will never be accused of getting too touchy-feely with her lieutenant governor, John Sanchez.

And even if Martinez’s popularity takes a nosedive before next year’s election, it would be a real stretch for Democrats to try to talk about the “Martinez-Sanchez administration,” the way Republicans derisively referred to the “Richardson-Denish administration” in attacking Denish during the last gubernatorial race.

Several pundits have noted that Martinez and Sanchez aren’t exactly close. And neither has done much in the way of disputing that.

Unlike Denish, who frequently appeared at Richardson news conferences during his first term, I haven’t seen Sanchez at any of the Martinez conferences I’ve attended since she took office.

The truth is, I don’t even remember the two of them being in the same room since Martinez gave her State of the State address on the Legislature’s opening day in January.

The distance between them became glaringly obvious Tuesday when Martinez issued a news release wishing Sanchez well in his campaign for Senate, but adding: “To prevent this race from becoming a distraction, Lt. Governor Sanchez will not be given responsibilities in my administration beyond the select few provided for in the state Constitution.”

Sanchez is taking on former Congresswoman Heather Wilson, who headed the Martinez administration’s transition team, in the Republican primary race for the U.S. Senate. But if Sanchez doesn’t succeed in his quest to succeed U.S. Sen. Jeff Bingaman, D-N.M., it will be interesting to watch how his relationship with Martinez and his role in state government develops. It seems unlikely at this point that their interactions will turn completely sour.

But few, if any, predicted in 1991 that Gov. Bruce King would be challenged by Lt. Gov. Casey Luna in the 1994 Democratic primary.

Select few responsibilities: There was a general snicker among some news dogs and political junkies at the idea of Martinez giving the lieutenant governor fewer responsibilities. In this state, the “lite gov.” has fewer real duties than any other elected state official.

Those responsibilities include presiding over the Senate when the Legislature is in session, acting as governor when the real governor leaves the state and serving as an ombudsman for constituent concerns. The lieutenant governor also is an automatic member of the Board of Finance as well as a few other boards and commissions.

It begs the question: Is this position necessary?

The Lieutenant Governor’s Office is not a real budget buster, but in years when there has been budget crunch, every little bit helps. According to information on the state Sunshine Portal, Sanchez and four staffers are paid a total of $350,000 a year.

Chief of Staff Rod Montoya recently pointed out that this is about half the size of Denish’s staff. The budget for the office in the next fiscal year totals $680,000, which allows for three additional full-time employees.

Most states do have full-time lieutenant governors. But not all.

The National Lieutenant Governors Association’s website (Yes, there is such a thing. They will meet in Puerto Rico in July) explains, “In Tennessee and West Virginia, the senate president is first in line of succession and in both states that official, by statute, is empowered with the title ‘lieutenant governor’ … In Arizona, Oregon and Wyoming, the secretary of state is first in succession, and in New Hampshire and Maine, the senate president is first in succession.”

Almost a year ago, when the conservative news website Capitol Report New Mexico floated the idea of abolishing the office of lieutenant governor, House Speaker Ben Luján, D-Nambé, said he expected the task force on government restructuring to consider it.

But that didn’t happen. And no bill ever emerged to get rid of the office. I guess the Legislature was too busy ignoring every other government restructuring and consolidation proposal to get around to ignoring this one.
Wilson: "The Governor was a surprise guest at my
speech at the Economic Forum this morning. Great to 

sit with her! These photos are a little blury [sic], 
but things  in politic move quickly! :)" 

Speaking of Capitol Report, after I filed my column, Rob Nikolewski apprently noticed this item in National Review as well as Heather Wilson's campaign Facebook page, where this photo appears.

The two Republicans were at the Economic Forum in Albuquerque where Wilson was speaking.

Martinez spokesman Scott Darnell told the
National Review that when Martinez is in Albuquerque, she tries to attend the Economic Forum and was not there specifically for Wilson's speech.

They must make pretty good eggs there for the governor to drive 60 miles for breakfast.

UPDATE: 5-26 I just corrected the caption of the top photo to state the actual year that Martinez and Sanchez were elected.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

This is Getting Fun Already!

Manuel Lujan, Jr. & Heather WilsonRepublican Heather Wilson sent out this news release earlier this hour.

"We welcome Lt. Governor Sanchez into the race and look forward to contrasting Heather Wilson's conservative record with his invented one. On issue after issue John Sanchez is not who he says he is, and Republican voters will be quick to figure that out."

You probably could say Sanchez started it today with his thinly-disguised barb in his video saying “We don’t want to return people back to Washington, D.C., who got us into this mess in the first place."

Only a year and a week or so before primary day.

UPDATE: I probably should mention the above quote from the Wilson campaign was from Heather Wade, the deputy finance director.

Governor Responds to GOP Senate Race

Here's Gov. Susana Martinez's statement regarding Lt/ Gov. John Sanchez's entry into the Senate race:

“I wish all of the candidates for the U.S. Senate well and do not intend to make an endorsement in the Republican primary at this time.

“It is Lt. Governor Sanchez's decision to pursue what he believes is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to run for the Senate. However, it is my responsibility to keep my word to the people of New Mexico by pursuing the reform agenda I promised and delivering the results they deserve. To prevent this race from becoming a distraction, Lt. Governor Sanchez will not be given responsibilities in my administration beyond the select few provided for in the state Constitution.

“I promised New Mexicans that I would work hard every day to turn our state around and that work will remain my focus.”

No additional responsibilities for the lieutenant governor? Is this the end to the Children's Cabinet as we know it?

Yep, It's Official. Sanchez is In

Early yesterday evening, John Sanchez's new campaign website wasn't up. I checked it.

But later last night, or perhaps early this morning, it came alive.

It's official: Five months of being lieutenant governor is enough!

And here's the video announcement.

I'm sure he's not talking about anyone in particular when he says,"“We don’t want to return people back to Washington, D.C., who got us into this mess in the first place."

In the GOP promary Sanchez faces former Congresswoman Heather Wilson, who has been collecting endorsements like baseball cards, not to mention a hefty campaign treasury. Two other GOP candidates, Greg Sowards and Bill English, also have declared.

On the Dem side, there's Congressman Martin Heinrich and challenger State Auditor Hector Balderas. Longshot Albuquerque activist Andres Valdez also has declared he's running.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Sanchez Has Declared He's Running For Senate

GOP Lt. Gov. Candidate John SanchezLt. Gov. John Sanchez hasn't made a formal announcement for the Senate race, but last week he filed the required paperwork with the federal government. Below is his statement of candidacy.

Roll Call says that "sources close to Sanchez" say he'll announce tomorrow.

Sanchez will face former Congresswoman Heather Wilson in the Republican primary. Two other GOP candidates, Greg Sowards and Bill English, also have declared.

On the Democratic side, Congressman Martin Heinrich faces State Auditor Hector Balderas. Dark horse Dem Andres Valdez also has declared he's running.

Sanchez Senate Declaration

Friday, May 20, 2011

Martinez Takes Aim at Omni

An executive order signed today by Gov. Susana Martinez seems to be aimed at a Santa Fe company involved in a recent bribery case.

The order apparently affect Omni Development, which still has contracts with the state despite the fact that its president Anthony Moya went to prison for embezzling from Kewa Pueblo (formerly known as Santo Domingo Pueblo.)

Omni was implicated, but not charged, in the recent bribery case involving former state Corrections official Laurie Chapman. The indictment, which a grand jury issued last month, says Omni paid bribes to Chapman.

The order applies to contractors who have been convicted of embezzlement, fraud, theft, bribery and other charges in the past three years.

Moya was convicted in early 2009, pleading guilty to one charge of embezzlement in a plea deal with federal prosecutors. In the plea agreement, he admitted to misusing some $312,000 in tribal money.

However, Moya's company has continued doing business with the state. As I reported last month, Omni has been awarded at least $8.6 million in state contracts in the past two fiscal years. Records available at the state Sunshine Portal indicate Omni has been paid nearly $965,000  in the current fiscal year.

Last month a federal grand jury charged Chapman, 50, with taking $237,080 in bribes from Omni in exchange for choosing the company for numerous construction projects worth about $4 million. The projects involve federal Department of Justice funds. Omni's payments to Chapman allegedly took place between 2007 and 2009.

Moya, though named as the "briber" wasn't charged. His lawyer last month wouldn't comment on whether Moya was cooperating with the government in the case against Chapman.

UPDATE: 3:09 p.m. My original figure on the amount Omni has been paid this year was way low. I've corrected it.

Here's the executive order itself.

Executive Order to Suspend or Disallow State Business with Firms that Violate Public Trust

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Roundhouse Roundup: Some Lawmakers Decide Against Hawaiian Trip

A version of this was published in The Santa Fe New Mexican
May 19, 2011

Last week, I reported that Gov. Susana Martinez's vetoes of parts of the Legislature's budget led lawmakers to talk seriously about cutting back on their own travel spending. I noted that these cutbacks could even affect our legislators' attendance at the annual meeting of the Council of State Governments --West  in Honolulu this summer.

State-paid travel to the Aloha State, of course, is a proven political hot potato. Such trips have come back to smack at least a couple of legislators in the form of campaign attack ads by opponents.

Apparently some lawmakers are having second thoughts about going to Hawaii. Raul Burciaga, executive director of Legislative Council Service, said earlier this week that eight legislators had requested and been approved for the Hawaiian trip.

However, in recent days, he said, five legislators changed their minds. Burciaga said some decided they'd rather go to the National Conference of State Legislators meeting in San Antonio, Texas, this year.

In 2008, two dozen New Mexico legislators went to the CSG-West meeting, which was held in Alaska that year.

Now only three are on the list for this year's meeting in Hawaii. Burciaga said it's possible that others could request to go before the meeting starts July 30.

Three travelers: The three currently on the list to attend are House Republican Leader Tom Taylor of Farmington, Rep. Bill Rehm, R-Albuquerque, and Sen. George Muñoz, D-Gallup. I spoke with all three this week.

All three said it's valuable to meet legislators from other states and to hear ideas on how they are tackling issues that New Mexico also is facing.

Taylor said he's somewhat obligated to go because he's vice chairman of CSG-West's Fiscal Affairs Committee. But, he said, he'll pay for his own airplane tickets and won't seek reimbursement for that expense. "I'll just put in for the per-diem," he said. Per-diem currently is $153 a day. He said he'll be traveling with his wife, daughter and son-in-law and will spend a few days with them in Hawaii after the conference.

Although he has been approved for the trip, Rehm said he hasn't decided whether he will actually go. "I haven't bought my ticket yet," he said.

Muñoz said this will be his second out-of-state trip in his four years as a senator. His first was a "legislative academy" in Colorado Springs, Colo. "I didn't want to go to the Energy Council meeting in Nova Scotia," he said.

Red eyes cryin' in the rain: There was some excitement in the Gary Johnson for President camp on Tuesday. After meeting with country music star — and pro-marijuana icon — Willie Nelson after a concert in Texas, Nelson's organization, the Teapot Party, endorsed the Republican former New Mexico governor for president.

But by Wednesday, that endorsement was only a pipe dream. The Teapot Party's Steve Bloom said, on the group's website, that Nelson in an email walked back the endorsement of Johnson, who is well-known for his stance on legalization of marijuana.

"My position is it's too early for me to endorse anyone," the singer said. "And I think every one should vote their own conscience."

Bloom said, "I wrote back reminding him that he had approved the endorsement."

" 'I know I said that,' Nelson replied. 'But I think I will wait and see where he stands on other things. My bad. Sorry. I still think he is a good guy but so is Dennis (Kucinich) and if he decided to run I would personally vote for him.' "

I hadn't heard anything about Kucinich, the Ohio congressman who ran for the Democratic nomination as president in 2004 and 2008, running against President Barack Obama in 2012.

In a later email to Bloom, Nelson said, "This will blow over and the world moves on. No harm done. We sound like a bunch of pot smokers, that's all. ... The more I get into politics, the more I realize that I am a guitar player."

Wednesday, May 18, 2011


Just one day after former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson received Willie Nelson's endorsement in his quest for the presidency, now Willie says he spoke too soon.

Here's the word on the Teapot Party blog:

After the Teapot honchos made the announcement yesterday, they sent links of press coverage to the country star. "His response took me by surprise," the blogger, identified only as Steve wrote.

Nelson told him, “My position is it too early for me to endorse anyone. And I think every one should vote their own conscience.”

"I wrote back reminding him that he had approved the endorsement," Steve wrote.

“I know I said that,” Nelson replied. “But I think I will wait and see where he stands on other things. My bad. Sorry. I still think he is a good guy but so Is Dennis and if he decided to run I would personally vote for him. If it came down to either him or Gary I’m already commited to Dennis. They both have said they support legal pot.”

He was referring to two-time candidate Dennis Kucinich. I haven't heard anything about Kuchinich running against President Obama next year. In fact. last I heard, the Ohio Democrat was thinking of moving to a safer Congressional district in Washington state.

I guess marijuana doesn't make you more decisive.

Who Are You to Judge?

All these judges in the news this week -- Murphy, Robles, Sanchez --  reminded me of a column I wrote at the end of 2005, a wrap-up of the year Gov. Bill Richardson had proclaimed to be "The Year of the Judiciary."

Bang your gavel HERE.

Guy Riordan Talks About Guy Riordon on Guy Riordan Website

My colleague Kate Nash had a very interesting story about former Bill Richardson pal and former Game Commissioner Guy Riordan late last week.

As Kate reported, state records show that since September 2009, the state has paid $58,210 for defense costs associated with Riordan, who is a defendant in the Frank Foy whistleblower case.

In one of those only-in-state-government twists, while the state is paying thousands to defend Riordan, it's also suing him. He's one of several defendants in two lawsuits filed this month in an attempt to get back the third-party marketing fees paid to various political figures by investment firms. (Among the other defendants are former State Investment Officer Gary Bland, Richardson political adviser Anthony Correra and his son Marc Correra and several figures involved in the New York investment scandals.)

While Googling around for Riordan after reading Kate's story, I stumbled across a website called, which has a bio of Riordan, a photo and an article called "Guy Riordan Speaks: The Patience of a Hunter" by Guy Riordan.

The prose gets pretty interesting. Sample:

“At our preserve, it was pheasant, duck and other forms of fowl,” says Guy Riordan. However, Guy Riordan points out that New Mexico offers much more in the areas of hunting including, big game. “New Mexico offers a rich diversity of elk and mule deer to antelope and turkey,” comments Guy Riordan. According to the former Rancho De La Joya owner, all hunting, particularly big game, has one thing in common – patience. “A successful hunter has the patience to watch and wait,” points out Guy Riordan.

The italics are mine. A reader has to have the patience of a hunter to get through all the "Guy Riordans."

I wouldn't bet that Riordan himself wrote this. I suspect robots.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Bad Week For NM Judges

State Court of Appeals Judge Robert Robles, who was arrested in February on a charge of drunken driving, has agreed to resign effective June 1 and agree to never again seek or accept a judicial post.

An order from the state Supreme Court Monday said all five high-court justices agreed that Robles should retire and never hold judicial office again.

The order also calls for a formal reprimand, which will be published in the state Bar Bulletin.

The Supreme Court had already suspended Robles without pay shortly after his Feb. 16 in Albuquerque.
The arrest came just three months after he was elected to the appeals court. He had been sitting on the Court of Appeals since 2008, when he was appointed by then-Gov. Bill Richardson to fill a vacancy. Robles served as a state district judge in Las Cruces for 17 years.

In late March, Robles pled guilty to the DWI charge. As a first-time offender, Robles was sentenced to community service, one year of probation and the use of an ignition interlock for a year. He was ordered to undergo an alcohol screening and complete DWI school.

A report in February by The Associated Press said an Albuquerque police officer pulled over Robles after having to swerve onto a sidewalk to avoid Robles' car as it sped through a red light about 1:15 a.m. The wire service reported that Robles had bloodshot eyes, his speech was slurred, and he reeked of alcohol.

The police complaint said a breath test showed Robles' blood-alcohol level was at least twice the state's legal limit of 0.08 percent. Robles told officers he had been “just circling around” on a “sad and lonely night.”

Robles’ name appeared in an investigator’s report attached to last week’s indictment of Las Cruces Judge Mike Murphy. The report said that in September 2007, another Las Cruces Judge, Lisa Shultz, went Robles — who was then chief judge in Las Cruces. Schultz told Robles about Murphy advising a local lawyer interested in a judgeship to make cash contributions to a local political figure.

According to Schultz’s account in the report, Robles offered to confront Murphy about that, but Schultz decided to do it herself.

In an unrelated case of a judge in trouble, the Supreme Court on Monday issued an order formally accepting the resignation of Taos District Judge Sam Sanchez.

Sanchez got in trouble in 2009 after he ordered arrested 32 people, almost all residents of Taos Pueblo, for making a disturbance in his courtroom.

“The court concludes that by intentionally jailing innocent people and by entering criminal convictions and depriving persons of their liberty without any effort to conform to even the most fundamental requirements of due process of law, (Sanchez) abused his judicial powers and committed serious willful misconduct in office,” the order says.

The court also ordered Sanchez to pay $1,115 in court costs.

Sanchez resigned in April days after a scathing Supreme Court hearing in which he was given an ultimatum — resign or be removed.

Richardson Responds to Judge Murphy Indictment

Hot off the e-mail:

“I appointed judges through an extensive process, including a thorough vetting first by the judicial nominating commission and then by my legal staff of the candidates that were nominated to me. I personally interviewed every candidate and appointed based on merit. I appointed 113 judges, including several Republicans, and the general consensus in the legal community is that we selected excellent judges who had to prove themselves to voters in elections. Campaign contributions never influenced my appointments, and any suggestion to the contrary is outrageous and defamatory.”

My story on Judge Mike Murphy's indictment and suspension by the Supreme Court is HERE.

Willie Picks Gary

Willie responds to candidates who
don't want to legalize marijuana.
In the battle for celebrity endorsements, Republican presidential hopeful and former New Mexico Go. Gay Johnson just won a doozy: Willie Nelson.

According to the website for Nelson's "Teapot Party" -- whose motto is "Tax It, Regulate It, Legalize It" -- Willie met Gary after a recent concert. Apparently the Red Headed Stranger like Johnson's position on ... you guessed it -- drug law reform.

Johnson commented: "I am truly gratified to have the endorsement of such an iconic entertainer, philanthropist, innovator and champion for individual rights as Willie Nelson. Not only is he a superstar talent, he is a bold advocate for social change. Americans are demanding the freedom and opportunity to pursue their dreams without interference from a heavy-handed government, and Willie Nelson lends a tremendous voice to those demands.”

Monday, May 16, 2011

Cruces Judicial Bribery -- How Far Does it Go?

The ghost of Cricket Coogler has to be watching the latest tale of corruption in Las Cruces with great interest.

A Dona Ana County grand jury late Friday indicted State District Judge Mike Murphy on charges of demanding or receiving a bribe by a public employee; bribery of a public officer or employee; bribery, intimidation, or retaliation against a witness; and criminal solicitation. He faces more than 10 years in prison.

The best way to catch up on this is to read Heath Haussamen's excellent coverage. Start HERE. Also below, unapologetically stolen from Heath's site, is the indictment itself and a report by investor Dan Blair. (Scroll down several pages to get to that.)

In a nutshell, Murphy allegedly told others that he paid $4,000 to get then Gov. Bill Richardson to appoint him, and told others this is the way judicial appointments were made.

It's important to note that Richardson has not been charged with any crime. In fact, there's no evidence in this indictment that Richardson himself ever saw any of this alleged bribe money.

But a  major question raised by this indictment is, if indeed there was a pay-for-play scheme in Las Cruces, is whether the practice of buying judgeships going on in other parts of the state? Again, there's no evidence of this presented in the indictment report -- and an indictment is only a charge. Murphy has not been proven guilty.

Murphy Indictment Report

Friday, May 13, 2011

Espinoza Offers Solution for Lawmakers Who Want to Go to Hawaii

I just spoke with Santa Fe County Clerk Valerie Espinoza who said she enjoyed my column on the upcoming legislator confab in Hawaii,

Espinoza, who is running for a seat on the Public Regulation Commission next year had a radical idea for lawmakers who really want to go to the Council of State Governments meeting this summer:

Pay your own way.

Espinoza herself was in the same position a few years ago when county officials attended a conference for the National Association of Counties held in Honolulu.

My colleague, Julie Ann Grimm wrote about that for The New Mexican's July 12, 2005 issue:

Santa Fe County Clerk Valerie Espinoza said she considered canceling her trip to the conference when she heard that officials in Bernalillo County and in other states were coming under fire for planning to attend.

But Espinoza found a good compromise, she's paying her own airfare to the five-day event, and is sharing a hotel room with Shirley Hooper-Garcia, deputy county clerk and former secretary of state.

The clerk, who took office about seven months ago, said the conference is an investment in her education and professional development.

"I don't abuse the process or the system or taxpayer dollars. I look forward to discussing important issues that affect our community, " Espinoza said. "It's about advancement, inclusion and research, " she said.

Blogger Problems

As most net nuts know, there was a serious meltdown yesterday at Blogger, which hosts this blog.

My Roundhouse Round-up column I posted late Thursday night got deleted. Blogger says it will be restored. If it's not back in a few hours, I'll repost it here myself.

Sorry 'bout that ...

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Roundhouse Roundup: Will Legislators Go Hawaiian?

A version of this was published in The Santa Fe New Mexican
 May 12, 2011

As the Legislative Council on Monday morning discussed the probable need to restrict lawmakers’ travel reimbursements, my ears perked up when someone brought up the fact that the upcoming Council of State Governments-West annual meeting will be held in Honolulu.

That’s right, a trip to Hawaii paid for by your tax money.

Under current rules, any legislator who wants to attend that group’s annual meeting can do so and get travel expense and per diem reimbursement. The same goes for the National Conference of State Legislatures, which meets this summer in San Antonio, Texas, and the Energy Council, meeting next month in Nova Scotia.

The state pays dues to all three organizations. But Legislature leaders are talking about tightening up on travel due to budget concerns.

Exploding pineapples: The paid trip to Hawaii probably sounds tempting to many legislators. It also sounds like full employment for producers of political attack ads next year.

It’s happened before, even in years prior to the state budget crunch. Back in 2002, I looked at travel vouchers for all legislators for the previous year. Among the trips I found was an October 2001 executive-committee meeting of the National Conference of State Legislatures in Honolulu attended by then Senate President Pro-tem Richard Romero, D-Albuquerque, and Sen. Joe Carraro, R-Albuquerque. The total reimbursement cost for both senators was just under $3,000.

A few months later, Romero, running for Congress against Republican Heather Wilson, saw the Hawaiian meeting come back at him in the form of a TV attack ad. If my memory serves, I think there was a hula girl in it.

Wilson ran similar ads against Romero in 2004. But the 2001 Hawaii trip still was reverberating in 2006. When Carraro ran for the U.S. Senate that year, a Republican primary opponent, Allen McCulloch, sent GOP voters a mailer showing a picture of a man and a woman lying on a beach. The text read, “Our tax dollars should be spent here at home in New Mexico — not on lavish trips to exotic vacation spots for any politician.”

I probably don’t need to mention that even though Romero and Carraro vigorously defended their island trips as legitimate legislative business, both lost those races. Some say both would have lost anyway, but the charges of junketeering didn’t help.
This is how legislators divide up the pork in Hawaii

See you at the luau? I don’t mean to imply that the CSG-West confab is all roast pig, flowered shirts and hula. As always, there will be lots of meetings and workshops about serious issues affecting Western states.

There are meetings concerning oil and gas, health care, water and the environment — and one program called “To Tweet or Not to Tweet: Promises and Pitfalls of Social Networking.”

And there’s also fun on the schedule. Here’s some of the events listed on the CSG-West website:

On July 30, there will be a poolside reception at The Edge of Waikiki, featuring “a breathtaking view of world-famous Waikiki Beach and the Pacific Ocean.”

The next night, conferees are invited to enjoy “an array of Pacific Rim cuisine, highlighting the freshest locally grown and harvested ingredients, served in the recently restored Monarch Room, one of Hawaii’s most cherished entertainment venues. It is located in the historic Royal Hawaiian Hotel, built in 1927 and affectionately known as ‘the Pink Palace of the Pacific.’ ”

Then on the last night: “A CSG-West meeting in Hawaii would not be complete without a Hawaiian-style luau, the traditional way the people of Hawaii celebrate special occasions. ... We invite you to enjoy a memorable evening of warm fellowship, delicious island food, arts and craft demonstrations, children’s activities and a spectacular Polynesian revue at the beautiful Royal Hawaiian Hotel Coconut Grove.”

And after a good luau at the Coconut Grove, you’ll be relaxed enough to come home and tell your constituents why the state can’t afford to fix their schools or help improve their water system.

And for those of you not going to the CSG-West meeting, here's a little hula for ya:

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

The Official No-Comment

I ran into former Gov. Bill Richardson about an hour ago. He was in the Capitol TV studio for some appearance on a national news program.

Naturally I asked if he had any comment on the recent law suits against former State Investment Officer Gary Bland, Guy Riordan, Anthony and Marc Correra, etc.

Naturally, he said he didn't have a comment.

Putting the Brakes on Legislators' Travel

Gov. Susana Martinez's veto of money for an interim committee on  redistricting and for committee meetings in advance of next year's regular session won't stop the redistricting committee from holding hearings around the state this summer or the pre-session meetings.

But it might just cut back on the amount of out-of-state -- and even some in-state -- travel for lawmakers. The idea of travel restrictions was discussed yesterday by the Legislative Council. My story about that is HERE.

Every few years I take a look at legislators' travel vouchers. Here's a link to the story I did two years ago. CLICK HERE. Also there's lists of which lawmakers traveled the most, top destinations and travel costs for Santa Fe legislators. Those are HERE

Friday, May 6, 2011

SIC Files Suits Against Gary Bland, The Correras, Guy Riordan and Others

The State Investment Council has filed two civil lawsuits alleging that the state was the victim of a pay-to-play scheme.

A suit filed in state district court names as defendants former state Investment Officer Gary Bland and Guy Riordan, a former broker and former friend of Gov. Bill Richardson.

"During Bland’s tenure, Governor Richardson’s supporters and senior members of his staff requested Bland to secure political contributions from investment management firms that had received fees in connection with investments made by the Public Trust Funds," the complaint says.

"During his tenure, Bland caused NMSIC to make alternative investments for the purpose of benefiting politically-connected individuals, rather than solely on the basis of the underlying merits of the alternative investments. Collectively these investments involved a commitment of more than ($2 billion) of the Public Trust Funds’ assets."

Bland told The Associated Press today that the lawsuit was "absurd." I left a message for Riordan, but haven't heard back.

The suit says Riordan "was paid substantial fees in connection with alternative investments made by NMSIC."

In a federal suit the defendants include Anthony Correra, described in one of the suits as "Gov. Richardson’s personal friend, fund raiser and confidante" who often purported to speak for the governor; his son Marc Correra, an investment broker who shared in $22 million in third-party marketing fees; and several figures from the New York investment scandals, including Saul Meyer; the Texas-based Aldus Equity Partners, which for years was the SIC's investment councilor, and Hank Morris, political advisor and fundraisier for former New York State Comptroller Alan Hevesi.

Hevesi is not named in the New Mexico suit, but his son Daniel is. Both Alan Hevesi and Morris were sentenced to prison this year in the New York scandals.

In a news release State Investment Officer Steve Moise said, “The State Investment Council takes this action today in hopes of recovering millions of dollars improperly taken from the citizens of New Mexico by those who violated their professional duties and the public trust, and their cronies who participated in and profited from such breaches of duty."

The same news release quotes Gov. Susana Martinez, who is chairwoman of the SIC, saying "As we wait for justice in the criminal courts, we must aggressively pursue legal action of our own. These efforts must continue until all responsible parties are held accountable for the abuses that occurred here in New Mexico.”

Martinez called upon the investment managers who entered into payment arrangements with third party placement agents to obtain SIC investment business to contact the Attorney General's Office and fully disclose the details of those arrangements “before the Attorney General knocks on their doors.”

Representing the SIC is the Attorney General's office and the Day Pitney law firm, which also represents the New York comptroller's office in trying to recover lost investments.

I called Richardson's office for comment, but a spokeswoman said he's traveling and couldn't immediately be reached. If I hear back, I'll update this.

UPDATED 5-10-11: Here's a copy of the federal suit as well as the complaint in state court.

Federal & State Lawsuits SIC

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Gary Johnson in SC Debate

Here's my observations after watching the Republican candidate debate in Greenville, S.C.:

Former Gov. Gary JohnsonOne of former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson’s major tasks for the debate was distinguishing himself and his libertarian philosophy from Rep. Ron Paul, who is perhaps the major leader of the libertarian movement in the U.S.

But the debate format, in which Fox News reporters and commentators asked questions of the five contenders on-stage, Johnson found little opportunity to do that. In fact it was Paul, not Johnson who got the first question about drug legalization even though Johnson made it a major issue of his second term as governor here.

Both Johnson and Paul were the only candidates who spoke in favor of legalizing drugs (Paul said he’d legalize heroin as well.) And Johnson and Paul were the only candidates who said they never would use water boarding for interrogating terrorism suspects.

As Bill Richardson learned in the Democratic presidential debates in the 2008 cycle, Johnson found out Thursday that it’s sometimes hard for a New Mexico governor to even get noticed during the debate. At one point when a Fox News questioner directed a question to Pawlenty, Johnson interrupted, protesting, “It's like nine questions for these guys and none for me.”

Johnson received both boos and scattered applause from the South Carolina Republican audience when he talked about his belief that women should have the right to abort a pregnancy “up to the point of viability.”

Johnson was able to reiterated his initial opposition to the war in Iraq and his recent opposition to military action against Libya. He said that while he supported the invasion of Afghanistan in 2001 after the Sept. 11 attacks, there's no good reason to be there nearly 10 years later.

One idea that he repeated several times during the debate was that the U.S. is “on the verge of financial collapse” unless the federal budget is balanced.

One oddball question that took Johnson by surprise was what kind of reality television show he would like to have. Johnson, who has climbed Mt. Everest, said he’d do a show in which he’d climb the highest mountain in each of the seven continents.

Lucky Break: Varela Backs Hector

Hector BalderasSenate candidate Hector Balderas, in his race for U.S. Senate, picked up the support of veteran state Rep.Luciano "Lucky" Varela, D-Santa Fe.

“There is no one more accountable with taxpayer’s money than Hector Balderas," Varela says on Balderas' campaign web site. "Over and over again as State Auditor, Hector identified and rid New Mexico’s spending of waste, fraud and abuse. It is exactly that type of vigilance that our national leaders must possess.”

Also listed as Balderas supporters are Santa Fe City Councilors Carmichael Dominguez and Ronald Trujillo, state Sens. Carlos Cisneros, D-Questa and David Ulibarri, D-Grants, state Rep. Tomas Garcia, D-Ocate, Taos Mayor Darren Cordova, Las Vegas District Attorney Richard Flores, Taos District Attorney Donald Gallegos and several more from around the state.

Roundhouse Roundup: A Beauty Contest Without the Beauties

A version of this was published in The Santa Fe New Mexican
May 5, 2011

Former Gov. Gary Johnson, who last month threw his ski cap into the Republican presidential ring, announced this week that he'll participate in the first GOP presidential debate in South Carolina.

That big show takes place tonight. If you haven't already bought a plane ticket for Greenville, S.C., you can catch the encounter at 7 p.m. MST on the Fox News Channel.

I'm sure the Democrats will have some awful things to say about the event — just like the Republicans do for Democratic debates. But one accusation that won't be leveled is that this showdown was overhyped.

Unfortunately for Johnson and the four others taking part in the debate, the little national attention paid to the debate has focused more on who won't be there than who will.

No Sarah Palin. No Mitt Romney. No Newt Gingrich, Mike Huckabee, Michele Bachmann, Mitch Daniels or Jon Huntsman. Not even Donald Trump.

Thus, the headlines scream, or actually yawn: "First Republican debate lacking party's biggest names," "Republican debate will feature depleted lineup" and "First GOP debate likely to be a low-key affair."

Even worse, some observers have even taken to insulting the candidates who are showing up.

The online Real Clear Politics on Wednesday quoted South Carolina GOP operative Bob McAlister saying, "It's like a beauty contest where all the women are ugly."

Reporter Scott Convoy went on to say that with so many top-tier candidates sitting this one out, those who show up "could appear more like the Feeble Five than the cream of the GOP's crop."
This is not Herman Caine

Besides Johnson, the other expected candidates are former Godfather's Pizza CEO Herman Cain, Texas Congressman Ron Paul, former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty and former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum.

Flashback to 2003: Johnson and the others might take heart in knowing that around 1991, many pundits were saying similar things about the not-so-well-known Democrats vying to challenge incumbent President George H.W. Bush. But one of those challengers, then-Arkansas Gov. Bill Clinton, went on to win the White House the next year.

The last time an incumbent president faced re-election, in 2004, the opposition party held its first debate of that election cycle in Albuquerque.

That was in September 2003. Eight of the nine Democratic candidates seeking to take on incumbent George W. Bush descended upon the state. (The Rev. Al Sharpton was the only no-show. He reportedly had a flight canceled due to bad weather.)

That debate generated lots of excitement for New Mexico political junkies.

Then-front-runner Howard Dean held a rally in Santa Fe, packing a downtown coffee house the night before the debate. Many other candidates held events in Albuquerque the next day.

Eventual nominee John Kerry read to preschool kids at a Head Start center. U.S. Sen. Joe Lieberman showed up at the Barelas Coffee House on Fourth Street Southwest, where he nibbled at a beef burrito and gabbed with 11 Democratic state legislators from Texas, who had fled their state in an effort to thwart a Republican redistricting effort. Both Dean and U.S. Rep. Dennis Kucinich held separate rallies on The University of New Mexico campus.

Former Gov. Bill Richardson, who introduced the debate, did more than a dozen interviews on national television. But his memories of that day probably aren't fond ones.

That was the night he let a Washington Post reporter tag along with him. That reporter ended up writing a piece about Richardson smoking a cigar in a no-smoking building at UNM and commanding his state police driver to step on the gas and drive at speeds of 110 mph on Interstate 40 to make it to a post-debate fundraiser for Lieberman.